US Soccer’s decision to release Bob Bradley earlier today ends a tumultuous 5 year period for the U.S. Men’s National program, but few will doubt it was the right decision at the right time.
Prior to Bradley, the U.S.’s ranking had risen as high as 4th in the world. While most fans, including U.S. fans realize that ranking was inflated, our most recent ranking of 30th shows just how far we’ve fallen over the past 5 years. Looking at the list of teams ranked above us is a bit embarrassing.
Were there good moments? Absolutely. No American soccer fan will soon forget our momentous victory over Spain the 2009 Confederations Cup. However, that feel-good moment glossed over the fact that we were thoroughly dominated in the Confederations Cup group stage and only advanced because of two bizarre 3-0 scorelines on the final day of group play. Furthermore, our victory over Spain can be attributed much more to the American fighting spirit and to be fair, two pretty lucky goals, more than any sort of mind-boggling tactical adjustments made by our coaching staff.
Under Bradley, the U.S. also won its group at the 2010 World Cup. Again, however, that feel-good moment in our victory against Algeria was only necessary of our slow start against Slovenia and 90 minutes worth of missed opportunities against Algeria. In our loss to Ghana, in the round of 16, we came out slow again and only after adjusting the starting lineup midway through the 1st half, did we work our way back into the match. While you can certainly give Bradley credit for his mid-game adjustments throughout his tenure, the frustrating thing for American fans is that the starting 11 was so poorly chosen so often.
With these feel-good moments overshadowing some obvious cracks in our foundation, Bradley was given another 4 year contract last year. I, like most American fans, was frustrated, but, also, like many American fans, willing to give Bradley another chance. For me, and apparently U.S. Soccer, the final straw was this summer’s Gold Cup. In the Gold Cup, the U.S. lost its 1st ever group stage game, and was taken apart by Mexico on our own soil despite having a 9-1-2 record against Mexico since 2000. (The lone loss was when we fielded our “B” team in the 2009 Gold Cup.
Perhaps the most frustrating element of the Gold Cup were the poor roster choices of Bradley, something fairly common during his tenure. Robbie Rogers and Chris Wondolowski being chosen over Alejandro Bedoya was embarrassing. In fact, Bedoya, who had arguably the strongest tournament of anyone on the American roster, was only chosen after missing the initial roster when Benny Feilhaber was injured on duty with his club. This type of roster selection followed some mind-blowing decisions from the 2010 World Cup like the repeated selection of Ricardo Clark and Robbie Findley, or the fact that DaMarcus Beasley was even chosen to make the team. The final, most frustrating decision of the Gold Cup, was Bradley’s use of Jonathan Bornstein in the final, despite the fact that Bornstein has been given dozens of chances with the national team and has NEVER proven he was worth another look.
In the end, this is the right decision at the right time. No one can begrudge Bradley’s tenure, he took the job on an interim basis and always maintained a calm and respectable demeanor for our national team, but he was clearly in over his head. Hopefully, US Soccer will now take the steps to recruit a top-notch coach to lead us successfully into the future.
John D. Halloran